Over the past seven years, I’ve come to understand my strengths as a mother. My weaknesses, too.
I’m great at talking, first of all. Especially the hard conversations. I think my time as a youth worker prepared me for this. When you spend five years having daily chats about awkward subject matter with even more awkward teenagers about everything from personal hygiene to sex to drug use to abusive relationships, you get used to diving into the tough stuff, erasing the judgment, letting your matter-of-factness draw out theirs.
I’ve always felt comfortable talking to Olive about the tough stuff, too. About the divorce, moving, consent, swearing, body image, my dating, her fear and anxiety, and the budding dramas in her friendship groups. Talking about things feels like it comes easily to me; the words show up and I speak them. We talk a lot, and she tells me everything. I’m good at that stuff.
We’re wrapping up Olive’s second week of Grade 1, and so far, it’s been a bit nuts. I mean, exciting and milestone-y and deeply gratifying, but nuts nonetheless.
The whole thing began earlier than I’d intended – at 5 AM last Tuesday morning, her first day of school.
I miss her the most at night.
She’s been gone almost five weeks and although it’s been easy to fill the days with friends and exercise and work and even a little bit of travel mixed in for good measure, the nights aren’t such a simple story.
I’ve been feeling unsettled lately for two very specific reasons.
First, because in a week’s time, Olive will be flying across the country to stay with her dad. He moved to Ontario at the beginning of April, and our custody arrangement has changed significantly as a result. We are still working out what will work best for Olive, but the likeliest outcome is that Olive will live with me for the majority of the year and for a portion of the summer, when time off school permits longer visits, Olive will spend time in Ontario.
I have a lot of feelings about this. Part of me is desperate for a break and part of me is excited that she’s going to spend time with her dad and part of me is deeply, deeply uncomfortable with the whole situation because she’s going for seven weeks. Seven weeks.
My mom babysat Olive last night and when I came home my house was spotless. The dishwasher was quietly humming, Olive’s toys were stacked neatly in her toybox. My dining room table was clear. My bed was made.
The sweetest things are always, always the smallest things.
When I drop Olive off at school I wait by the playground fence as she lines up with her classmates. She runs back three or four times for another hug, another kiss, another “I love you”. When her class begins to slowly file inside she interrupts her excited chattering every few seconds to look back and wave, “Bye mummy!” she cries, “Bye mummy!”.
I miss writing about motherhood.